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Code of Conduct Appendices

Appendix A – Behaviour Code

The Behaviour Code for Parliament can be found here.

Appendix B – Definitions of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct[1]

Bullying and harassment

Definitions

1. There are many definitions of bullying and harassment and both terms are often used interchangeably. The definition for harassment below reflects the definition set out in Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010, although this policy is not limited to harassment connected with a protected characteristic under that Act. The definition for bullying below is taken from ACAS guidance. These definitions will be used for determining whether any behaviour reported under this policy and procedure constitutes bullying or harassment.

2. All behaviour that does constitute bullying or harassment is a breach of the Behaviour Code. However, not all breaches of the Behaviour Code would constitute bullying or harassment.

What is bullying?

3. Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving an abuse or misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, undermined, humiliated, denigrated or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority and can include both personal strength and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation.

4. Like harassment, bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Bullying behaviour may be in person, by telephone or in writing, including emails, texts or online communications such as social media. It may be persistent or an isolated incident and may manifest obviously or be hidden or insidious. Whether conduct constitutes bullying will depend on both the perception of the person experiencing the conduct and whether it is reasonable for that person to have perceived the conduct as bullying.

5. Examples of bullying may include, but are not limited to:

  • Verbal abuse, such as shouting, swearing, threatening, insulting, being sarcastic towards, ridiculing or demeaning others, inappropriate nicknames or humiliating language;
  • Abuse of a similar nature carried out in writing or electronically (including posters, graffiti, emails, messages, clips or images sent by mobile device or posted on the internet);
  • Physical or psychological threats or actions towards an individual or their personal property;
  • Practical jokes, initiation ceremonies or rituals;
  • Overbearing or intimidating levels of supervision or micro-management, including preventing someone from undertaking their role or following agreed policies and procedures;
  • Abuse of authority or power, such as placing unreasonable expectations on someone in relation to their job, responsibilities or hours of work, or coercing someone to meet such expectations;
  • Ostracising or excluding someone from meetings, communications, work events or socials;
  • Sending, distributing or posting detrimental material about other people, including images, in any medium.

What is harassment?

6. Harassment is any unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. All harassment, regardless of whether or not it relates to a protected characteristic, is covered by this policy.

7. Harassment may be persistent or an isolated incident and can either be manifest, hidden or insidious. It may take place in person, by telephone or in writing, including emails, texts or online communications, including social media.

8. Harassment can be intentional or unintentional. It can occur where A engages in conduct which has the effect of violating B’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for B, even if A didn’t intend this. Whether conduct constitutes harassment will depend on both B’s perception and whether it is reasonable for B to have perceived A’s conduct in that way.

9. A person may also be harassed even if they were not the intended ‘target’ of harassment. For example, a person may be harassed by jokes about a religious group that they do not belong to, if these jokes create an offensive environment for them.

10. Examples of harassment, other than sexual harassment, may include, but are not limited to:

  • Sending or displaying offensive material in any format (including posters, graffiti, emails, messages, clips or images sent by mobile phone or posted on the internet);
  • Mocking, mimicking, belittling or making jokes and comments about a person (or a group stereotype);
  • Use of unacceptable or inappropriate language or racial or other stereotypes (regardless of whether the complainant is in fact a member of the group stereotyped);
  • Deliberately holding meetings or social events in a location that is not accessible for an individual (by reason of disability, religious prohibitions or otherwise);
  • Using profanities or swearing that could have the effect of creating an offensive environment for a person to work in.

What does the law say about bullying and harassment?

11. In some cases, acts of bullying or harassment can be civil offences, which can be litigated through civil proceedings, in either an employment tribunal or county court.

12. In some cases, conduct that amounts to bullying and harassment may also amount to criminal offences, which can be tried in the criminal courts. Examples may include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical assault;
  • Making violent or death threats;
  • Stalking;
  • Hate crimes.

Sexual Misconduct

13. The definitions below will be used for determining whether any behaviour reported under this policy constitutes sexual misconduct.

14. All behaviour that constitutes sexual misconduct is a breach of the Behaviour Code. However, not all breaches of the Behaviour Code would constitute sexual misconduct.

What is Sexual Misconduct?

15. Sexual misconduct describes a range of behaviours including sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and any other conduct of a sexual nature that is non-consensual or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating, undermining, humiliating or coercing a person. Any of these behaviours will be treated as a potential breach under this policy, encompassing behaviours that may or may not also be defined as sexual harassment or sexual offences in the context of civil or criminal courts. However, using the language of sexual misconduct makes it clear that the policy for Parliament is separate from and additional to any legal processes.

16. The following behaviours may constitute sexual misconduct if they occur inappropriately or without explicit full and freely given consent. This non-exhaustive list sets out examples in the categories of verbal, non-verbal/environmental and physical sexual misconduct.

17. Verbal—sexual remarks including those about appearance or clothing, jokes, catcalls, questions about sexual life, raising sexual topics, verbal advances, etc.

  • Asking personal questions about sexual or social life or offering unwanted personal information about own activities.
  • Remarks that draw attention to someone’s sex in an inappropriate or unwanted way.
  • Enquiring about sexual history, fantasies or preferences.
  • Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or appearance.
  • Obscene phone calls of a sexual nature.
  • Repeatedly propositioning someone, in person or by telephone.
  • Subtle or overt pressure for sexual activity, including requests or demands for sexual favours and promises of reward in return.
  • Threats of reprisals if requests for sexual activity are turned down.
  • Treating someone less favourably because they have rejected or submitted to unwanted sexual conduct.

18. Environmental/Non-Verbal—displaying pornographic or sexually explicit material, sexist comments and pictures on social media or chat groups, stalking, image-based sexual abuse such as up-skirting, revenge porn, deep fake porn, etc.

  • Sending or displaying obscene material of a sexual nature in any format (including posters, graffiti, emails, messages, clips or images sent by mobile device or posted on the internet).
  • Inappropriate gifts of a sexual nature.
  • Inappropriate advances or stalking via social media.
  • The circulation or displaying of pornography.
  • Sharing private sexual images of another person without consent.
  • Repeatedly propositioning someone in writing (including through text or social media chat groups).
  • Repeatedly following or tracing the movements of another person without good reason.

19. Physical—suggestive looks and gestures, staring, leering, threatening behaviour, brushing past someone, pinching, touching, groping, promises/threats related to career prospects in return for sexual favours, etc.

  • Uncalled-for physical contact, deliberate brushing past.
  • Unwelcome and inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing.
  • Groping, grabbing, kissing or fondling without consent.
  • Indecent exposure (masturbation, nudity) and acts of voyeurism or exhibitionism.
  • Attempting to or engaging in sexual intercourse or a sexual act without consent.

20. It is not illegal in the UK to pay for sex. However, for individuals to do so when they are acting in a parliamentary capacity or engaged in activity connected to their membership of the Parliamentary Community (whether it takes place in the UK or overseas) is considered unprofessional and inappropriate. It is therefore a breach of the Behaviour Code and constitutes sexual misconduct for the purposes of this policy.

What does the law say about sexual misconduct?

21. The Equality Act 2010, section 26 (2) and (3) defines sexual harassment, which is one form of sexual misconduct. It includes conduct by A of a sexual nature which has the effect of violating B’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for B, even if A did not intend this. Whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment will depend on both B’s perception and whether it is reasonable for B to have perceived A’s conduct in that way. A can also carry out sexual harassment if A treats B less favourably because B did not submit to A’s sexual advances.

22. Some forms of sexual misconduct may also constitute criminal offences under a range of legislation, including, but not limited to, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and national legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Potential criminal offences include sexual assault, rape, stalking or disclosing private sexual images to cause distress (‘revenge pornography’).

Consent

23. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, a person is regarded as consenting to sexual activity if (a) they agree to it by choice and (b) have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. This Policy uses the same definition of consent in relation to sexual misconduct.

24. Capacity—A person’s capacity is dependent on whether they are physically and/or mentally able to make a choice and to understand the consequences of that choice. For example, a person does not have the capacity to give consent if:

  • They are drunk or under the influence of drugs, for example they may still be physically able to have sex but they may not be able to consent.
  • They are asleep or unconscious.
  • They may not have capacity if they have a disability or impairment, including learning difficulty, physical disability or mental health condition.

25. Consent must be present every time a person (A) engages in sexual activity with another person (B). A must stop if they are not absolutely sure that they have B’s consent. Any prior consensual sexual activity or relationship between A and B does not, in and of itself, constitute B’s consent to further sexual activity with A. B may withdraw consent at any time (including during a sexual act) and consent can never be implied, assumed or coerced.

Notes

[1] The definitions in this appendix are taken from Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme policies on bullying and harassment, and sexual misconduct.